Minnesota Poll: Most still oppose subsidy for the Vikings

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 10, 2011 - 8:02 AM

But, for first time, most also say public financing of Target Field was worth it.

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An architect’s rendering of what a new Vikings stadium might look like on the Metrodome site.

As the push for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium escalates at the Legislature, a large majority of Minnesotans still oppose using public subsidies for the project, even though they agree that keeping the team in the state is important.

More than 60 percent of respondents in the latest Star Tribune Minnesota Poll said the Vikings should simply keep playing in the Metrodome, the team's downtown Minneapolis home for 29 years. Nearly three in four said Vikings owner Zygi Wilf should not get taxpayer money for a new stadium.

But a year after the Minnesota Twins opened Target Field, the poll, for the first time, showed that a majority favored spending public money on that project. Fifty-five percent now say that public financing of the project was worth it, up from 48 percent in October.

A Vikings spokesman and a legislative sponsor of a plan to build the team a new stadium predicted a similar shift once a new football stadium is built.

The poll of 806 Minnesota adults was conducted last week just as Ramsey County and Minneapolis were in separate negotiations over their competing plans to host the stadium and help the Vikings financially build it.

Though the latest results closely mirror the findings of a Minnesota Poll last fall, there were some notable caveats.

Despite opposition to public funding of a new stadium, 66 percent say the Vikings are at least "somewhat important" to Minnesota. Only two in 10 felt the team was "not at all" important to the state.

Shifting attitudes

The latest poll results also show no clear preference on a Vikings stadium site. While 24 percent prefer building at or near the Metrodome, 22 percent favor the former ammunition plant site in Ramsey County's Arden Hills. Fifteen percent would put the new stadium adjacent to Target Field, and 23 percent are open to building it somewhere else.

But the poll shows that opposition to a new stadium remains high -- as the issue is expected to dominate the Legislature in its final weeks.

The Vikings should not get public subsidies "when the whole state is just dying for money," said Kim Nahgahnub of Cloquet, referring to the state's $5.1 billion budget deficit. "I want a lot of things," she said of the Vikings quest for a new stadium. "I want another horse, you know. I want a new car. I just don't get those things because I want them."

K. Allan Nelson, a retired bookseller living in Minneapolis, likened the Vikings stadium drive to the Twins stadium push and said he is still upset that Hennepin County imposed a countywide sales tax to help pay for Target Field without holding a referendum. He said Mike Opat, the county board chair who engineered the Target Field proposal, should be "swung from a high bridge" for ignoring voters.

Nelson said it mattered little to him whether the Vikings leave the state. "What I think makes a city ... [is] a beautiful new library," he said. "So, I'd like to see our tax money for libraries, parks [and] streets.

Dave Wolden, who is assigned to the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, said opponents miss the point.

When his unit was stationed in Saudi Arabia a year ago, Wolden said, "the entire mess hall was packed" when a Vikings playoff game was on TV.

"It was insane," he said. "We're in the middle of a deployed area and people are busting out, like, [Vikings star] Adrian Peterson jerseys. The team, he said, allows people for "a few hours just to be able to turn off, you know, what's going on in the outside world. To lose something like that would be incredible."

Katharine Tinucci, spokeswoman for Gov. Mark Dayton, said Monday that Dayton, who has indicated he supports a new stadium, would not respond to the new poll results. "The governor's laid out his position on stadium and that's as much as he wants to say," Tinucci said.

Rep. Mike Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, a co-author of the Vikings stadium legislation, called the poll results "interesting" -- particularly those that show a majority of respondents saying Target Field was worth the expense.

"It's like the [entire state] budget debate -- we want all the things we want from government, but we don't want to pay for them" until Minnesotans realize what tax money can buy, he said.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president for stadium development and public affairs, predicted that once a new Vikings stadium is built, opposition would shrink, much as it has for Target Field.

"We expect that that same dynamic will play out," Bagley said. "I think people are fatigued about stadium debates."

Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673

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